chapter  5
15 Pages

Romantic Transformations

Usually male, the individual is outcast, part victim, part villain. Older Gothic figures and devices, overused to the point of cliché, are transformed into signs of aristocratic tyranny, leftovers from an unenlightened world. The disturbing and demonic villain, however, retains a darkly attractive, if ambivalent, allure as a defiant rebel against the constraints of social mores. The sympathies for suffering, doomed individuals find expression in Romantic identifications with Prometheus and Milton’s Satan, regarded as heroes because of their resistance to overpowering tyranny. The villain or outcast, unlike much Radcliffean writing, is not the cause of evil and terror, an object to be execrated so that order can be restored. It is a position which calls for respect and understanding. Real evil is identified among embodiments of tyranny, corruption and prejudice, identified with certain, often aristocratic, figures and, more frequently, with institutions of power manifested in government hierarchies, social norms and religious superstition.